New system promises disaster proof e-mail

E-mail systems have increasingly proved themselves vulnerable to incapacitation by viruses and destruction by natural or man-made...

E-mail systems have increasingly proved themselves vulnerable to incapacitation by viruses and destruction by natural or man-made disaster, but MessageOne has unveiled a "hot standby" technology meant to let businesses route messages through offsite servers when primary systems go down.

Emergency Messaging System (EMS) is the latest product from MessageOne, founded four years ago by Adam Dell, younger brother of hardware maker Michael Dell.

Traditionally focused on helping large organisations manage e-mail services, MessageOne designed EMS after hearing its customers complain about the need for reliable and affordable e-mail backup systems, according to Michael Rosenfelt, vice-president of marketing at MessageOne.

"They told us that they needed a high-availability solution, but that existing systems were too costly or too hard to manage," Rosenfelt said.

Existing systems are costly because typically there must be a backup e-mail server for each primary e-mail server for emergencies, he said. High bandwidth connections are needed to tie redundant sites to the corporate network and companies need personnel to manage the additional hardware.

"Our customers told us they wanted a solution that was functionally equivalent but structurally different from their primary systems," Rosenfelt said.

The EMS backup mail server relies on a specially designed core of Linux and secure open-source technologies and can simultaneously serve as a backup for multiple messaging servers using disparate platforms.

To integrate the backup system, mail administrators modify their company's Domain Name System (DNS) schema, adding the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the EMS backup server as a low-level mail exchange record that will be used if the other listed mail servers are unavailable.

Hosted at a remote location and managed by the customer or by an application service provider, the EMS server relies on a dedicated application written in Microsoft's .NET framework, installed on a Windows 2000 server at the customer's site to synchronise information between the various messaging servers and the EMS server, Rosenfelt said.

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